On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Let sanity prevail

Unnecessary controversy: Yuna has been criticised for sharing a friendly hug with Usher.

We need to stop any kind of religious-political culture from rearing its ugly head in Malaysia. We just need to be bold and say no.

IT’s unbelievable. A friendly hug, which is more sisterly and brotherly in nature, between Malaysian singer Yuna (pic) and Grammy award winner Usher can actually become a controversy.

There was nothing sensual about it but for some people, these holier-than-thou critics, it has become an almost punishable moral crime, but luckily they are only in the minority.

The majority of her fans, who are rational people, have chosen to support her via social media but it must have hurt the US-based Yuna badly.

For one, she wears a headgear and her body is mostly covered up, even though it is well-known that her American friends have often told her it is all right to drop her fashion taste, thinking she is under some form of religious pressure.

But that does not seem to be enough for some critics, who supposedly uphold religious principles, but could in the same breath fire away profanity and curses.

Last week, Yuna, through her Instagram account, wrote: “I’ll show my appreciation whether it’s a handshake, or a hug, to my friends, this is me.”

“They call me ‘perempuan sampah’ and tell me to ‘might as well go naked’. The worst, hurtful & sexist things I’ve ever had thrown to me, were from the lips of the Malays,” Yuna added.

The hugging incident happened spontaneously while they were singing their hit song, Crush, at The Roots Picnic 2016 in Philadelphia, USA, last month.

The video was posted on Instagram and Twitter by Yuna on June 5, and her act was immediately criticised by some bloggers.

Yuna has been reported as saying that “I have some Americans telling me to take my hijab off, and I tell them no. I have some Malays tell me to take my hijab off because ‘from wearing a turban might as well take off your hijab’, I tell them no too.”

Usher could have chosen anyone to duet with him. We are talking about a huge name who has partnered with the likes of Pharrell and Justin Bieber but he has given the privilege to Yuna, who may be a nine-time Anugerah Industri Muzik (AIM) winner, but isn’t exactly a household name in the United States.

The collaboration has given Yuna international fame and instead of cheering and being proud of our local brand, some of us are kicking her for the most ridiculous things.

What did we expect her to do? Push Usher away, who is simply not used to Muslim etiquette but was merely hugging her without any sinister intentions?

She has signed up with Fader Label and this means she has also started working with Pharrell, whom we all know for giving us monster hits like Happy and Blurred Lines with Robin Thicke.

Her critics clearly can’t see the forest for the trees. Can Malaysians be blamed if some of us are beginning to be concerned with the new kind of intolerant religious-political culture that is taking shape in our country?

Even His Royal Highness the Sultan of Johor, in an interview, has expressed his worry that many Malaysians are becoming more Arab than the Arabs, with some female Malaysians refusing to shake his hand.

Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Sultan Iskandar said in an interview: “If there are some of you who wish to be an Arab and practise Arab culture, and do not wish to follow our Malay customs and traditions, that is up to you. I also welcome you to live in Saudi Arabia.”

And of course, picking on entertainers didn’t end with Yuna. The Islamist party, PAS, threw a tantrum when it heard that Selena Gomez was putting up a concert in Shah Alam tomorrow.

The party, which was only momentarily moderate in the last general election, has gone back to its fanatical ways.

The wing’s dakwah committee chairman Hafez Sabri claimed that the American singer’s “sexy appearance” would tarnish the sanctity of the month of Syawal, which is when Muslims celebrate Hari Raya.

The state religious affairs executive council member Ahmad Yunus Hairi, who is from PAS, then ordered all mosques throughout the state to hold solat hajat (special prayers) to pray for the cancellation.

Obviously, Ahmad Yunus isn’t aware that although he may be the exco member in charge of religious affairs, it is the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) which carries more clout. Jais issued a statement late Friday to say it did not issue any notice or order for mosques to hold special prayers.

Its director Datuk Haris Kasim said any decision to cancel the show will be up to the local authorities, adding “as the people already know, the concert is set to take place on July 25.”

To top it all, the Raja Muda Selangor Tengku Amir Shah sent out a cheeky Instagram posting, on Friday night, which says “Welcome to my home town @selanagomez!” with a poster of the concert.

If PAS has its way, Malaysia will become another Taliban state. In Kelantan, its members are still dead against the revival of cinemas in that state.

Its youth wing has imposed conditions, such as gender segregation with the need to have the lights switched on while movies are going on.

So, if a husband takes his wife to the cinema, he would have to bring along their marriage certificate to prove they are married and we are not even sure if non-Muslims are exempted.

No wonder the Kelantanese prefer to just go to Golok and of course, bring back all kinds of diseases.

We need to bring back sanity and must be bold enough to stop this kind of religious-political culture, which is completely alien to Malaysia, but justified in the name of religion, as interpreted by PAS.